The United States has suffered at least 66,000 more deaths than expected this year, a toll that includes the devastation directly caused by the covid-19 pandemic and a sharp rise in fatalities not attributed to the virus, the government reported late Wednesday.
The new report from the National Center for Health Statistics shows 33,756 covid-19 deaths and 32,325 from all other causes since Jan. 1. Other causes includes heart attacks, accidents, overdoses, cancer and a wide variety of other fatal diseases. It also could include people who died of covid-19 at home but whose death was incorrectly attributed to another cause.
The numbers are almost certainly a substantial undercount of the actual total. The report notes that information on the cause of deaths can take as long as eight weeks to reach the federal government and be tallied.
On Wednesday, the death toll from coronavirus alone passed 60,000 since Feb. 29, according to data collected by The Washington Post.
But the official statistics support the findings of independent efforts to determine the pandemic’s hidden toll – including reporting by The Post and other newspapers showing that excess U.S. deaths soared in the early weeks of the pandemic. They also buttress fears that people with heart conditions, strokes and other life-threatening conditions might be dying at home in greater than usual numbers. Doctors have worried that people are not going to hospitals because they are afraid of contracting the virus.
On Monday, The Post reported that from March 1 to April 4, the United States saw 15,400 excess deaths – nearly double the total attributed to covid-19 for that period.
Officials with the Health Statistics center, which is part of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, were not available to comment on the data after it was released Wednesday evening.
The numbers paint a statistical portrait of the national devastation of the past 120 days. There have been more than 17,000 excess deaths in New York City alone, 10,000 more in New York state and nearly 8,000 in New Jersey. Pennsylvania, Michigan, Virginia and Massachusetts all suffered more than 2,000 excess deaths.
West Virginia, which has reported just 40 covid-19 deaths, nevertheless has suffered 2,182 excess deaths so far this year, according to the new data. California has experienced just 807. At the bottom of the list, Hawaii and Nevada have seen 12 each.
Since Jan. 1, 2017, the data show, the nation has only exceeded its normal expected death threshold twice: in the weeks around Jan. 1, 2018, when a record flu season struck the nation, and in the weeks surrounding April 1 of this year.
(c) 2020, The Washington Post · Lenny Bernstein